tv Democracy Now LINKTV February 7, 2014 8:00am-9:01am PST
execution chaos -- as drug companies have refused to let their product be used to put people to death, some states are using untested combinations that have resulted in deaths like dennis mcguire, using an untested two-drug method despite warnings it might cause immense suffering. we'll talk to a reporter who witnessed the execution, and speak with a lawyer for a man executed in missouri with an entirely different cocktail. made by a pharmacy this date refused to name. then, to texas. >> how many people need ems? call when four11 people were killed by a drunk driver, 16-year-old ethan couch. prosecutors sought a 20 year
sentence, but a judge sentenced 20 years -- 10 years probation citing affluence of. we will talk to the author of an article. and we look at the case of jordan davis, who was shot dead on the day after thanksgiving. >> there was an argument about music during which the accused, michael dunn, did not feel he was treated with respect. >> you are not going to talk to me like that, he shouted, as he sprayed the car that jordan sat in with bullets, killing him instantly. >> the michael don trial began yesterday. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report.
i'm amy goodman. an environmental group says it has detected dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in a north carolina river following one of the worst coal ash spills in us history. despite assurances from duke energy that the water remains safe to drink, the waterkeeper alliance said it found arsenic levels 35 times higher than maximum levels set by federal regulators. on monday, duke energy estimated up to 82,000 tons of coal ash had spilled, but the flow has continued all week, despite efforts to staunch it. in news from syria, an operation to evacuate trapped civilians from the besieged city of homs is underway after government forces and rebels agreed to a ceasefire. u.n. spokesperson farhan haq said the pause would also allow the delivery of aid. a top state department official -- has apologized to her that they the report
had pre-positioned food on the outskirts of homes ready for immediate delivery as soon as the green i was given by the party for safe passage. >> a top state department official has apologized to her european counterparts after she was caught cursing the european union in a leaked audio recording that was posted to youtube. the recording captured an intercepted phone conversation between the u.s. ambassador to ukraine and victoria nuland, the top u.s. diplomat for europe. nuland expresses frustration over europe's response to the political crisis in ukraine. >> it would be great to help them glue this thing. >> assistant secretary of state for europe victoria nuland is also caught on the tape giving a blunt assessment of ukraine's
opposition leader vitali klitschko. >> i do not think he should go into the government. i do not think it is necessary, i do not think it is a good idea. occurred where victoria nuland met with protesters. a russian official has accused the united states of "crudely interfering" in ukraine. the spat comes as the winter olympics open today in the russian city of sochi. senate republicans have blocked progress on a bill that would have restored jobless aid to 1.7 million unemployed people who saw their benefits expire in december. the bid to restore the benefits fell just one vote shy of passing. meanwhile in the republican-controlled house, speaker john boehner has dampened hopes for a long-awaited bill to overhaul the immigration system. boehner spoke at a news conference on thursday. to changesident seems
the health care law on a whim whenever he likes, and now he is telling everybody he will keep acting on his own. he keeps talking about his phone and his pen and he is feeding more distress about whether he is committed to the war -- rule of law. aboutis widespread doubt whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and he will be difficult to move any immigration until that changes. >> a new report says iraqi authorities are illegally detaining thousands of iraqi women and subjecting many to torture, rape and threats of sexual abuse. human rights watch said women reported being kicked, hung upside-down, beaten on their feet, given electric shocks and sexually assaulted during interrogations by security forces. sarah leah whitson from human rights watch described the findings. >> we found dozens of cases of women who said they signed confessions due to torture.
we have, ourselves, documented torture on their bodies, seen the marks left behind. we have talked to judges who have verified being put under pressure to convict without evidence. impunity.s a sense of until maliki makes clear that he will not tolerate torture and abuse either in the prison or in the police station, we can expect this to continue. >> parts of latin america are facing a spate of extreme weather. in bolivia, torrential rains and floods have killed 38 people and left many others homeless. more than 40,000 households have reportedly been impacted by the rains since october, five times the total from last year. parts of brazil meanwhile are seeing their worst drought in half a century. hundreds of thousands of cattle have died. january was the hottest month on record in parts of brazil, including the city of sao paulo.
meanwhile in the united states, agriculture secretary tom vilsack warned climate change is already having an impact on us farmers. wednesday, vilsack unveiled a series of measures aimed at assessing the damage from a changing climate. >> when you take a look at the intensity of the storms we have seen recently, the frequency, the length of the drought, combined with snowstorms and the subzero weather, the combination of those factors convinces me the climate is changing, and it is going to have its impact, and is having its impact on agriculture and forestry. >> california, which produces about half of all us-grown fruit, nuts and vegetables, is currently in the midst of its worst drought in modern history. a former portfolio manager for sac capital has been convicted on all counts in what the government has called the largest insider trading case in history. mathew martoma was charged with conducting illegal trades based on inside information about the development of an alzheimer's drug, netting $276 million in profits and averted losses for
the firm. he is the eighth current or former employee of sac capital to be convicted on insider-trading charges. he could face up to 20 years in prison. the senate judiciary committee has approved attorney debo adegbile to lead the civil rights division of the department of justice. he previously served in top posts with the naacp legal defense fund and, along with other attorneys there, represented prisoner mumia abu jamal, a move some republicans unsuccessfully used to try to discredit him. here in new york city, activists gathered outside of new york's fashion week on thursday to demand better wages and conditions for garment workers in bangladesh. the demonstrators called for us brands whose clothing was made in the rana plaza factory complex to compensate relatives of the more than 1,100 workers who died when it collapsed last april.
michelle flores of 99 pickets spoke at the event. >> fashion week here in new york is a spectacle of luxury, and i think there is a need to draw attention to wear these clothes will get made, and it is really relevant across the supply chain, whether you are an independent designer, who can not afford to compete with the major companies and brands, who will send the results of broad to be produced, and factory workers do not have a voice. i think it is important for that reason. are brands brands whose clothing was made in the factories where the tragedies happen in bangladesh. >> the illuminator art collective also projected images of the rana plaza collapse victims onto buildings in new york city. the protests came the same day as a new report detailing how garment factory owners in bangladesh threaten and intimidate workers who try to
form unions. workers told human rights watch they faced sexist insults, death threats, physical attacks and intimidation that forced them to resign after they tried to organize. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. >> i am juan gonzalez. we begin today's show with a look at the chaos surrounding executions in the united states, now that many of the drugs used for lethal injections are no longer available. some states have moved forward by using untested combinations that have resulted in what critics say are cruel and unusual deaths. the final words of oklahoma prisoner michael lee wilson just 20 seconds into his execution in january were quote "i feel my whole body burning." weeks later, ohio executed dennis mcguire using an untested two-drug method despite warnings it might cause immense suffering. his son, also named dennis, witnessed the execution.
>> shortly after the warden button is jacket to signal the start of the execution, my dad began gasping and struggling to breathe. i watched his stomach heave -- heave. fit up onhim try to the gurney. he repeatedly clenched his fists. it appeared to me he was fighting for his life, but suffocating. agony and terror lasted more than 19 minutes. awful moment in my life to witness my father's execution. i could not think of any other way to describe then torture. >> not long after mcguire was executed, the state of missouri put to death herbert smulls.
with yet another chemical cocktail that used 3 drugs instead of two. meanwhile on thursday, virginia lawmakers failed to pass a law that would let death row prisoners die in the electric chair now that the state has run out of the chemicals used to make up its three-drug execution cocktail, and is unable to locate more. the delayed vote could impose a temporary moratorium in virginia, which executes more people than any other state besides texas. the execution drugs' scarcity stems from the refusal of manufacturers in europe and the united states to let them be used to put people to death. reports of the first company to refuse such use came out in 2011. ra is discontinuing a drug used for death penalty injections. it is the sole maker. it is discontinuing production because they could not guarantee italian authorities the drug would not be used in executions. >> as the shortage of execution drugs intensifies, at least seven states could join virginia
in returning to the electric chair. alabama, arkansas, florida, kentucky, oklahoma, south carolina, and tennessee. three states still allow hanging -- delaware, new hampshire, and washington. and the gas chamber is legal in arizona, missouri and wyoming. well for more we're joined by 3 guests. alan johnson is a reporter with "the columbus dispatch" in ohio, and has covered most of the executions in the state since it resumed them in 1999. most recently, he witnessed dennis mcguire's execution. he joins us via democracy now! video stream. cheryl pilate is one of the lead attorneys for herbert smulls, who was executed january 29 with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. it was the state's third execution since november and the third since switching to the new drug, which is made by a compounding pharmacy the state refuses to name. and in philadelphia, megan mccracken is an attorney with the uc berkeley school of law's death penalty clinic, where she is an expert on lethal injection methods. welcome all of you to democracy now! i want to begin with alan
johnson in columbus with "the columbus dispatch. execution of the mcguire. can you describe what you saw? >> i saw the sun describe it, and it was accurate, of course from a different point of view. i have seen 20 executions in ohio. it started similar to the others. flowing,cal started mr. mcguire turned his head away from his family, and appeared to close his eyes and become unconscious, and that is how they normally go, but this does -- this differed as he started gasping, his stomach was compressing and going out. he clenched his fist. mainly, it was the deep gasping. the attorneys called it their
hunger -- air hunger, and it was almost a snorting sound, so keep in mind, we are hearing this through gas -- through glass. there was very audible, loud gasps he was expressing, and it appeared he was trying to breathe and he was struggling in some capacity. i do not believe he was conscious. i have no idea if he was feeling pain, but it was definitely a struggle. >> alan johnson, what was the reaction of yourself, the witnesses, even the prison officials that were there? >> well, the media, we are at the back of the room come very small room, and we were just watching and taking notes, of course. the victim's family, they were completely silent. they made no sound, had no
reaction. family,nis mcguire's his son, daughter, and daughter-in-law, were visibly shaking, crying, sobbing, holding each other. it was an emotional side of the room where they were. the prison officials did not really seem to have any visible reaction. they were observing as they normally do, and did not react one way or the other. the thing about this, it went on for at least 10 minutes, this part of it where he is struggling. little bitve been a more, but it was at least 10, possibly 12 minutes. that might not seem like a terribly long time in other contexts, but in this it was a very long time. alan's alan johnson -- >> johnson, why did they use this new drug cocktail? >> i think your introduction explained it very well.
in each case, the drug was no longer available. because of that, they had to switch. that sounds easier than it actually is because it is a very detailed protocol, and more importantly, it has to be approved by the courts. in ohio, the u.s. district court in columbus has had deep scrutiny about this process and has been very critical about it, so whatever they do has to pass legal muster as well, as well as the process of the medical examination. >> we are also joined by cheryl pilate, an attorney for herbert smulls, who was executed in missouri. cheryl pilate, could you talk about what you understood to be the drug combination used there, and also about the issue of the
state of missouri, like many states, maintaining the actual composition of the drug secret. >> i think what we are seeing right now is a real determination to move ahead regardless of knowing whether the drug or combination of drugs are safe or have been proven effective. what i foresee coming is actually a lot of executions this year. in missouri, what occurred in my client's case, as in the prior to executions was the use of a compound, and the significance is many fold. with the compound the drug, the drug can vary from batch-to-batch. it is compounded at a and theing facility, process has been surrounded by
secrecy with the state not revealing who the compounding pharmacy is, where the drugs come from, or what lab has tested them, and an independent mastication has raised a lot of questions for those of us who represent the prisoners on death row. basically, what we see proceeding here and what is very disturbing is experimentation on human subjects. that is essentially what it is. these are not time tested and vetted methods. i think in several states across the country are has been a real determination to move ahead with these essentially experimental protocols. >> you were not in the execution, you did not witness the execution of herbert smulls, but your investigator did. to two of theen witnesses that were there, and blessing me, my client appeared
to expire very quickly. one thing we have not been able to answer is what he was trying to say. he was injected, he was mouthing words. they could not be heard. we do not know if it is like the situation in oklahoma where the prisoner reported he felt his whole body burning. in oklahoma they used one of the same drugs, and i think we have heard about that execution of mr. wilson, who reported his whole body felt like it was burning. this point, i do not know what my client was trying to say. we are still doing some investigation. regardless, from execution to execution, there is a great deal of concern because as i said, there is no reliability or to batchcy from batch
of compounded drugs, so each time you get it, you get it, you're not entirely sure whether it is exactly what was given safe,, whether it is whether it is contaminated, potent, can we get lab reports, but because of the investigation the we have done thus far, lab that we suspect to be involved has raised questions that we frankly do not have a lot of faith in the lab reports that we have received. a lot of questions remain to be answered and the problem is we do not have time to attempt to answer them. the state is moving ahead swiftly with execution, at the rate of one per month, and it producede a massed assembly-line approach to executions without time to be asking the questions they very much need to be answered.
>> cheryl pilate on this issue, there is no federal oversight? i understand an appeals court basically allow this to go forward recently? didhere was a judge who dissent from the order denying stay, butt smulls a with compounded drugs, you are dealing largely with an industry that has been regulated. whatever regulation that has existed has been at the state level. there is a new federal law that applies to drug compounding, but it does not have a great reach or a lot of teeth. a lot of the mechanisms involved voluntary registration, so this is a largely unregulated industry. the same thing applies to the contract testing labs that
tested these drugs, and essentially there is an industry lax orth history of little accountability. -- regulation or accountability. wasefore herbert smulls executed, your office was on the phone with him? pre-k's yes, my colleague lindsay wrote -- >> yes, my colleague lindsay was on the floor -- on the phone with him before he was essentially ripped off of the phone. >> were all the appeals done? >> no. not at that point. we had an application for stay pending in the united states supreme court. >> they executed before his appeals were over? >> that is true. megan mccracken, you are
listening to this conversation from philadelphia, pennsylvania, though you teach at the uc .erkeley school these issues, how the drug companies are refusing to have their chemical compounds used -- can you talk about that question mark we heard -- that? say they cannot be used. how prevalent is that? >> it is a new trend. we heard them say they would not be used. then steps were taken from another company to prevent the use of its product in executions . historically, pharmaceutical companies have never wanted the drugs used in executions. they have always said publicly and to this day to the department of corrections this is not what we make products
for, we make products to help people, save lives, not to end them, but limbeck was the first to repent their use. what is the potential impact on drug supplies? do that compounding, would they had to take initial drugs that they use and then change or alter them -- could you talk about the attentional impact? >> well, the use of compounded drugs in executions raises a lot of concerns. compounded drugs are main to order, so there is no continuity from one batch to do next. you can execution with one compounded drug that appears to go well or fine, but that does not tell you about the compounded drug used in the next execution. pure,r or not the drug is potent, contaminated, or whether
it has a trace ingredient that could cause pain and suffering is unknown from one batch to the next. the drug company fresenius kabi applauded missouri's decision not to use propofol for executions. their ceo, john ducker, said quote "this will be welcomed by the medical community and patients nationwide who were deeply concerned about the potential of a drug shortage." he added that the company quote quote "such use is contrary to the fda-approved indications for propofol and would lead the european union, where about 90 percent of the drug is manufactured, to impose severe restrictions on its export to the united states." explain the significance of this, megan mccracken. >> it is significant that they stopped using the drug. >> this is the drug that killed
michael jackson? >> i do not know too much about michael jackson's death. i think it was one drugs in his system. i think it is important to state backed away from the protocol, but what is important now is the courts in missouri and other states take the time to gather the necessary information, let prisoners present their evidence, and do a real examination of these protocols of the use of new drugs to determine if there are constitutional infirmities. >> would that be a de facto moratorium? >> what has happened recently in louisiana is instructive. there, the court putting 90-day executionement on the , and that will determine whether or not the protocol, the drug, the sourcing will be constitutional or presents a substantial risk of pain and suffering to the condemned prisoners. that is the appropriate and a
sensible step for courts to take, to take the time and make sure they can get the information and the evidence they need to do the examination. crocs what are the alternatives for states? bringing back previous methods of execution? can you talk about that debate going on now? >> sure. we have seen some states talk about bringing back the electric chair, or some states have had the chair as an option, but in virginia they are trying to have the electric chair be an option if they are not able to get the lethal injection drugs. in some states, it is hard to tell when a legislator or a governor is calling for the electric chair, if that is a sincere policy option or a plan, or an expression of frustration. it is hard to tell from state to but sometate to state, are considering other options.
>> the firing squad? >> the firing squad is an option in utah i believe. i do not know where else. to ending thelead death penalty? the united states is unusual in that it is the only country in the industrialized world that has the death penalty. >> anytime you look at the details as to the actual implementation you uncover problems. there is so much secrecy surrounding the procedures. it is extremely difficult to get information about the pharmacies supplying the drugs. it is hard to get adequate and appropriate testing of the drugs to be used, so it is hard to get the assurances that the drugs will not cause pain and some -- pain-and-suffering. when you dig beneath the surface, you find extraordinary problems, and that is a reality
we will need to face. >> we want to say thank you to you all for being with us. megan mccracken, ellen johnson, a reporter with "the columbus -- alan johnson, a reporter with "the columbus dispatch," and cheryl pilate, the attorney for state ofmulls, the missouri third execution since october. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. back, we will look at two cases, the case of tragic casend the of jordan davis, shot dead in 2012 for playing hip-hop music.
>> billie holiday singing "strange fruit." this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. juanamy goodman with gonzalez. >> we turn to the tragic case of jordan davis, who was shot dead on the day after thanksgiving. >> i am here before you because shot andrdan was killed last november while sitting in the backseat of a friends car listening to loud music. the man who killed him opened teenager,ur unarmed
even as they tried to move out of harms way. that man wasn't powered by the stand your ground statute. i am here to tell you there was no ground to stand. there was no threat. nobody was trying to invade his home, his vehicle, nor threatened him nor his family. there was a visit for his argument about music during done,the accused, michael did not feel that he was treated with respect. you are not going to talk to me like that, he shouted, as he sprayed the car that jordan sat in with bullets, killing him instantly. when jordan's friends tried to backed the car away, mr. dunn
aimed his handgun, and fired off several more rounds. nine total pierced his car. >> those were the words of lucia mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old jordan davis testifying before the senate in october. well on thursday, the trial began for michael dunn, the man who admits he repeatedly shot jordan after an argument over loud music. the case has been compared by some to that of trayvon martin. >> like trayvon, jordan davis was a black teenager shot dead in florida by an older gunman claiming self-defense. during opening arguments thursday assistant state attorney john guy said davis was unarmed and never left his vehicle. -- his car. >> you will see through the photographs that when the bullets went through jordan it it throughoor, big pieces of plastic and rubber into the car because the door was closed.
car.searched the there was a basketball in the back. there were basketball shoes. clothing, 12-inch speakers, cops on the floor. ,here were no weapons, no guns no bats, no tire irons. there was a camera tripod stuffed in one of the seats. no weapons. >> prosecutor john guy went on to detail how the shooter, michael dunn, left the scene of the shooting, drove 40 miles to a hotel with his girlfriend. they ordered a pizza and watched a movie. the next day they drove to their home 130 miles away. he never called the police. michael dunn's defense attorney cory strolla argued in court dunn's actions were justified. dunn.threatened michael
bitch." dead, you are going down. whatever it was, it was a deadly weapon. you will hear the law, and you will rule on that law. you will see the evidence. they can try to show you the forensics, but what they cannot do is match the trajectory of jordan davis getting out of the car. and it was not as mr. guy said, mr. davis was leaning over. there will be testimony that as dunnsell mr. -- saw mr. reach for the gun, everybody in the card duct. you know who did not dock?
jordan davis because he was getting out of a car with a weapon after telling michael dun bitch. are dead, this is going down now." you have four man against one. you know what jordan davis did not realize? the other man was armed, and gode is an expression -- did not make all men equal, cold did, and that is a firearm. it is a tragedy. we are not here to change the law, to say anybody deserved to lose their life, but under the law it is justified. >> cory strolla attorney for
michael dunn, the man on trial in florida for shooting dead 17-year-old jordan davis after an argument about loud music. again, none of the four young man got out of the car. jordan davis was killed in the car. to talk more about the trial we are joined by michael skolnik, editor-in-chief of globalgrind.com. he has been closely following the case and has been in contact with jordan davis' parents. he serves on the board of directors of the trayvon martin foundation. talk about the significance of this case. stand your ground again? >> i think the significance is with trayvon martin, and we see this play over again. "threatened"eman, by people in a car. >> he went over to them. >> they are at a gas station, his girlfriend goes to the store to buy wine and a bag of chips.
-- tols the kids to throw turn the music down, they say no, and he shoots them. he shoots them as they drive away and two bullets kill jordan davis. >> he was in the basque -- backseat, passenger side. >> yes. >> and the incident that he did not report -- he claimed to be threatened. >> one of the hard things to rationalize is the defense attorney was trying to make sense of why you would drive watch a movie, order a pizza, make a rum and coke to my drive and not call the police, and the defense said it was because of his girlfriend. she made him do this. it was not him, he was panicked and flipped out and she said let's go back to the hotel. that is hard to sit with your
letter to member the difference between this case. this gentleman has been in prison since he was arrested. --has not been bounded bonded out because the court felt he was a threat to society. >> you have been tweeting following the opening arguments. what struck you? >> john guy, the assistant prosecutor in the case was also the same prosecutor they gave the opening argument for the trayvon martin-george zimmerman trial. the important thing to watch is one of the mistakes made in the george zimmerman trial was they played his statements, his reenactment video, if you will, to the jury. i think john guy and angela corey -- >> the same prosecutor. will try everything
they can to put everything they -- to put michael dunn on the stand. in this case, there were witnesses, unlike the trayvon martin case. there were at least three others in the car. >> three of his friends were in the car. leland was the one who carried jordan as he was dying, and you have witnesses at the gas station. you have a contractor he testified that he came to the gas station. another homeless man was in his car and watched it happen, and wrote down the license plate number and gave it to the cashier, and that is how they found michael dunn. >> the description by one of the witnesses saying the young men in the car were all weeping. >> again, to try to rationalize this -- the defense attorney was
saying they did not show any emotion, tell anyone to call 911. timesust got shot at nine at 7:00 on a friday night. >> let's turn to a clip of michael dunn being questioned by police. this is how dunn described what happened the day he killed 17-year old jordan davis. >> there is an suv next to us, and the music starts. my window, and i thought i was polite, i asked them nicely, i did not demand, i said would you guys mind turning that down, and they shut it off, and i said thank you. cordial. everything is cordial. i thought my window back up, i was doing my stuff, and i do not know how many kids are in there,
but the windows are down in the backseat seat, the windows are up in the front seat. back washat was in the , and myreally agitated window is up, i cannot hear everything he is saying, that [beep] in the of music comes back on. anys like "i do not need trouble." i do not know if they are singing or what, but they are saying kill him, so i put my window down again, and i said excuse me, are you talking about me? , "kill thatlike [the]
andi am still not reacting, this guy goes down on the ground and comes up with something. i thought it was a shotgun, and beep]." "you are dead [ that is when i reached in my glovebox, on holstered my pistol, and quicker than a flash i had a round changed and i shot. beingt was michael dunn questioned by police. the police say they found no weapons. written where it says if all of these thugs are in prison, and if we kill them before they threatened us, they would change their behavior. this challenge, as in moving to a new america, there are the
stereotypes that young, black men are threatening to some. michael dunn might have perceived, thought there was a weapon, thought these kids usually carry weapons, but there was never a weapon. yesterday, in court, the defense attorney changed that it might pipe,een a gun or a lead but police are so bad they never found it. that is their theory. i do not think it will hold up in court. they will do their best to convince the jury. withu were also involved george zimmerman. is there going to be a boxing match? >> george zimmerman was contacted to put on name celebrity boxing match, and they are looking for an opponent. found dmx and asked him if
he would fight george zimmerman, and he said of course, and i have been in contact with publicists, urging them not to do this, do not bring the attention to george zimmerman. martin would have been 19 years old this wednesday. i am going to celebrate his life with his family in our annual peace walk. the family does not want this attention brought to jordan -- george zimmerman. you, do not do this. >> we are going to go out with lucia mcbath, jordan davis's mother, testifying last october during a hearing on the public safety implications of "stand your ground" laws. she spoke before the senate judiciary committee's subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and human rights.
>> he was my only child, he was raised knowing right and wrong and i have been without him 2012.thanksgiving of i never got to take his prom picture or see him graduate from high school. i can tell you all about him, about his easy smile, his first girlfriend and his plans to join the marines. i can tell you how he loved his for the how we rooted new york giants, but you can never really know my boy because an angry man who owned a gun kept it close at hand and shows to demonstrate unbridled hatred one lonely evening for reasons i will never understand. these laws empowered his
there are four or five kids playing in ditches in the streets. >> that was a 911 call from last june, when four people were killed by a drunk driver. the driver was 16-year-old ethan couch. he was speeding, with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. couch has admitted to his crime, and in a case that went before a texas judge, prosecutors sought a 20-year sentence. instead, couch was sentenced to 10 years probation after a psychologist claimed he had affluenza. he described it as growing up in parents were his preoccupied with arguments that led to a divorce. on wednesday, a judge ordered him to go to an expensive rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. this is cnn's anderson cooper questioning the psychologist. >> a 14-year-old african-american child was sentenced by the same judge one year or two ago, -- this 14-year-old killed one person, punching him, the person fell, hit his head on the sidewalk and
died. an african-american child got a 10 year sentence. why should there be a separate system just because you have money? >> i do not think there is a separate system. this young man will be a ward of the state, for 10 years, anderson. if he missteps any time, the judge can send them to the penitentiary. >> that was on cnn. couch will reportedly be attending a rehab facility that costs $450,000 a year. marla mitchell, whose daughter breanna was killed in the accident, spoke to reporters shortly after the ruling. >> no matter what game he or his have been, theey world will not take their eyes off of him, and they will be waiting for him to mess up again if he does. >> well, for more, we're joined by two guests. in dallas, texas, we're joined by richard alpert, who prosecuted the case against ethan couch.
he is the tarrant county assistant district attorney. and, in chicago, illinois, we're joined by boyce watkins. he recently wrote an article titled "rich, white kids have 'affluenza,' poor, black kids go to prison". richard alpert and boyce watkins, welcome to democracy now! richard alpert, let's start with you. can you lay out what happened in wednesday's hearing? wasis it that affluenza used? he killed four people. came out of the mouth of andrew miller, who was on the anderson cooper clip you just played, and the position was because he had this profoundly dysfunctional family, he was a child of privilege, his parents let him do what he wanted to do, somehow he was not responsible that it was the parents fault, not his fault
that the crime occurred, and with the contention that we found to be ludicrous. it was a contention we confronted in the courtroom, we thought we did so effectively, and the judge obviously did not give the sentence we wanted to be given. washought that pen time appropriate for this young man. >> as this defense been used previously? >> i have never heard anyone say that the fact the person comes from privilege or money entitles them to different consequences. i have never heard that before. again, the phrase that was thrown out there from what i have seen after the fact, it does not even apply to the situation. it was not meant as a defense, and it just was not credible. i think it is a one-shot situation. i do not think anyone will attempt to do this. since the judge made the determination, we do not know what factors were considered.
alex beingtching interviewed. his younger brother was in the , beggingethan couch him to slow down. now, minimally responsive and it has been a long time. he can hardly move. he does not respond. this is alex talking about his brother. basically, that is as much as he is going to rehabilitate. we can hope for, how use right now for the rest of his life. >> his brother says he has quit alljob to stay with sergio the time. >> that is my life. that is how much i love him. limus describing his brother's condition, and he
said not only does a rich white person get off, but they invent words that people have to say like affluenza. , can you respond to this, as you wrote an article called "rich, white kids have 'affluenza,' poor, black kids go to prison" >> having grown up as a poor, black kid, i find it interesting asset,e wealth can be an and then the asset is contorted into a liability, which ultimately makes it into another asset. i know guys that have gotten 40 years in prison for possession cocaine.am of crack i had a brother that went to prison at an early age and it led him down a spiral of mental illness that stayed with him until he died. i was personally offended by what this judge did, and deadly
think this judge, particularly since it was inconsistent with previous sentences, particularly with african-american defendants, i believe the judge should be invested for corruption. i would not be surprised if there was a financial link or political link that led to this outcome. everybody should be outraged, not just african-americans, but all of us, which i think is the case. >> boyce watkins, in terms of this becoming some kind of a precedent in a new age here of a tale of two countries between rich and poor in america? tale of twoy have a countries. america really has become addicted to capitalism, extreme capitalism. i am a finance professor. i do not hate capitalism, but at the same time, i know it is powerful like a power -- fire or drug. ultimately, you see the gap
between the rich and the poor is growing more and more every year, and it is affecting our political and judicial systems. also, we have two tales when it comes to race. the united nations has cited the united states for having a two tear society. everybody knows about the joke except for us. when you talk about a kid like ethan couch, i say the best cure for his affluenza would be prison and most people know that. this judge is one judge who made a bad decision, but at the same time, it could be applied across the country because most studies show disparate sentencing does exist between races and people with different social economic statuses. there. have to leave it , richard alpert.